“Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.”
– Will Rogers
We all need a push to get/keep going every once in a while. Sometimes we just need to be reminded we are on the right track. Having an advisory board can ensure that you are both on the right track and moving in the right direction. Instead of focusing too much time on how to assemble an advisory board, I want to focus on how an advisory board can benefit your business. If you have started a business or are thinking about starting a business, you probably have a solid idea of what you want to accomplish (e.g., products to sell or services to offer).
But is it possible that you might not have all the answers? Or that you haven’t thought of all the questions to be answered in order to ensure success? This is where an advisory board can be most beneficial. Here are three reasons an advisory board will positively impact your business. A healthy advisory board will:
#1 Reveal Blind Spots
You don’t know what you don’t know. With a group of advisors, the blind spots are diminished as each person offers his expertise and experience to help you discover missing pieces. A few examples of blind spots include:
They may be aware of your competitor’s marketing campaign, or an upcoming sale, or its presence on social media. A good advisory board has its ear to the ground and pays attention when similar businesses are active and growing.
A financial advisor may know ways to save money or reinvest it. A marketing guru may be able to share the next big platform that would be most beneficial for your products and services.
The last thing you want is to be embarrassed (at a minimum) or sued (at worst) by using a picture or an article you thought was public domain only to find out it was copyrighted. A lawyer would be able to help navigate the murky water of copyright infringement on social media.
#2 Be a Sounding Board
As you compile your advisory board be cognizant as to its ability to listen and process. One of the greatest assets this board can do for you is help you process through tough decisions. The members must have the ability to remove emotion, think critically, and give competent feedback. As you bring up new ideas or even refuse to let go of old ones, your board will have the ability to remove emotion and see the bigger picture. Nobody likes to hear criticism, but sometimes it needs to be said. Think: Crystal Pepsi. David C. Novak, who was credited with introducing Crystal Pepsi, had this to say in an interview regarding its epic failure:
“It was a tremendous learning experience. I still think it's the best idea I ever had, and the worst executed. A lot of times as a leader you think, 'They don't get it; they don't see my vision.' People were saying we should stop and address some issues along the way, and they were right. It would have been nice if I'd made sure the product tasted good. Once you have a great idea and you blow it, you don't get a chance to resurrect it.”
#3 Offer Accountability
"To thine own self be true."
I believe William Shakespeare was on to something with these words. As you are ultimately responsible for your business and its vision and values, take time to be reminded of why you started your business. Your board can help you stay grounded and focused on what you are about. This requires openness on your part and willingness on its part to ask the difficult questions. Allow members of the board to know your goals and dreams, what motivates you and why you are doing what you are doing. Each time you meet, review your mission and vision statements and see if they align with your actions.
Here is an example from The Mayo Clinic. Its Primary Value statement is only seven words long, “The Needs of the Patient come first.” At each unit’s weekly meeting, this statement is said aloud. It is always before the entire staff. Ask any employee her primary value, and she will recite it without hesitation.
Keep the vision before you and allow the board that you have assembled to hold you accountable to it. As an old proverb states,
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
I will adjust it slightly and say that where there is no vision, the business perishes.
An advisory board is just that, a board of people to give you advice. Ultimately you are responsible for your business and its success. Use wisdom in deciding your board and it will help you keep focused, stay on track and moving in the right direction.